#15 Minnesota Softball 2021 Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers
Overall Rank: #15
Conference Rank: #2 Big Ten
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Minnesota had a breakthrough season in 2019. They won 46 games and hosted the Minneapolis Regional and Super Regional where they eliminated two SEC Teams in Georgia and LSU. The Golden Gophers advanced to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City where they went 0-2. Despite losing two straight games in Oklahoma City, the experience of playing on that stage will only help the Minnesota program continue to grow as a national power moving forward. However, that success forced a coaching change after Jamie Trachsel took the Ole Miss job. The Gophers opted to stay in the program and promoted former pitching coach Piper Ritter to take over the program.
2019: 46-14, 20-2
2019 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Piper Ritter
Key Departed Players:
Maddie Houlihan, OF, .297 BA, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 7 SB
Sydney Smith, P, 2.40 ERA, 13-5 W/L, 108.0 IP, 25 BB, 99 SO
Allie Arneson, INF, .244 BA, 3 HR, 18 RBI
Hope Brandner, INF, .354 BA, 19 HR, 59 RBI
Key Returning Players:
Makenna Partain, INF, .383 BA, 5 HR, 33 RBI, 13 SB
Natalie DenHartog, UTIL, .373 BA, 17 HR, 64 RBI, 5 SB
Katelyn Kemmetmueller, UTIL, .222 BA, 7 HR, 22 RBI, 8 SB
Amber Fiser, P, 1.27 ERA, 31-9 W/L, 259.2 IP, 74 BB, 346 SO
This team should be strong offensively once again in 2020 as the Golden Gophers return two proven hitters. Makenna Partain hits for a very high average with a mix of power and speed that will be tough to deal with. Natalie DenHartog is one of the top all-around hitters in the country as she hit .373 with 17 homeruns, 64 runs batted in, and stole five bases in 2019. Amber Fiser is the ace of the pitching staff and she will have a big say as to how far Minnesota advances in the postseason in 2021. Fiser threw 259.2 innings in 2019 and was absolutely dominant. Fiser struck out 346 batters while walking just 74 and had a 1.27 earned run average. Look for Fiser to be in the National Pitcher of the Year conversation all year long and Autumn Pease proved to be ready to step into the number two role behind Fiser after a strong 2020 campaign. As long as they can find some more bats to compliment DenHartog and Partain, expect the Golden Gophers to hang around the top eight national seed conversation all year long.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament